MIAMI -- A pitcher had never been named MVP in the 18-year history of the All-Star Futures Game. One dominant arm and a deep lineup made it possible on Sunday at Marlins Park.
Rays No. 2 prospect Brent Honeywell struck out four over two scoreless innings, and all nine U.S. starters recorded at least one hit in a 7-6 win over the World Team. It was the seventh win in the last eight years for the American side, which improved to 12-7 since the game was started in 1999.
Gameday box score
"This is actually the coolest thing I've ever done," MLB.com's No. 22 overall prospect said. "I don't think I've ever won in my career like an MVP. I've been to some All-Star Games, but this is kinda cool."
The 22-year-old right-hander got the start facing a World lineup that featured eight Top-100 prospects, including No. 1 Yoan Moncada (No. 1) and Amed Rosario (No. 3), who were hitting in the spots corresponding to their prospect rankings. Entering the showcase as a pitcher made famous by his ability to throw a screwball, Honeywell said he went to the offering just once -- to fan Dodgers No. 2 prospect Alex Verdugo in the first for his first strikeout. After Verdugo fouled off two changeups and a 96.6 mph fastball, Honeywell knew it was time for the breaking stuff, freezing Verdugo looking on the outside corner, and then he didn't throw it again.
"With the fastball, he kinda looked like he squared it up and I had already thrown him everything, so I thought if I'm going to throw one, it's going to be right here," Honeywell said. "If it's good, it's the only one I'm going to throw, and it was a really good one."
Video: Honeywell wins Futures Game MVP
U.S. starting catcher Chance Sisco, who's 0-for-2 with two walks and two strikeouts against Honeywell in the International League this season, tried to get his starter to throw the screwball more but was unsuccessful. Honeywell seemed content to rely on a fastball that touched 98 mph in the abbreviated outing as well as his changeup and slider to mow down the World.
"I called for it a couple times, but he shook off it most of the time," Sisco said. "I wanted it just because it's a good pitch. When something moves like that, I mean, why not? It was fun. I got to see the movement on all of his pitches and work with him. Helping guide him through the game was awesome because I've faced him. But I still didn't know entirely how he pitches, so catching him was fun."
World Team infield loaded with star power
Honeywell allowed one hit -- a first-pitch single by Rafael Devers in the second -- and was the only pitcher to last more than one frame. With the chance to pitch in a Major League stadium in front of a live national TV audience on MLB Network, the right-hander said he wanted to prove himself on the biggest stage of his career.
"Absolutely, I'm grateful for [the Rays] letting me do this," he said. "Even moreso, I appreciate [U.S. manager Charles Johnson] letting me start the game. I really, really wanted this start."
There were also some stellar performances from the U.S. relief corps. No. 2 White Sox prospect Michael Kopech threw five pitches that registered at least 100 mph during a scoreless third inning, and Tigers No. 3 prospect Beau Burrows, who touched 98, fanned both Rosario and Devers during a perfect fourth.
Perhaps the reason Honeywell was able to become the Futures Game first MVP hurler was that no U.S. batter stood among the rest but only because they were so thorough as a group coming together for just one game. Featuring seven Top-100 prospects, the entire U.S. starting lineup had at least one hit by the fourth inning. Marlins No. 3 prospect and hometown hero Brian Anderson was the only American with more than one hit, going 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored.
After building a four-run lead through three innings, the U.S. broke open the game in the fourth when singles by Brendan Rodgers and Nick Gordon were followed by an RBI double by Lewis Brinson and a two-run double by Derek Fisher. The US led, 7-0, before the game had reached its midpoint, and the sluggers could feel themselves feeding off one another in the early going.
"The inning I got the double, I was just backing up Brinson and Gordon and all these dudes that started it off," said Fisher, who was 1-for-2 with a walk and two RBIs out of the third spot in the order. "It wasn't me -- they were on base for me. They put together a good AB, and it wouldn't happen without them.
"To sit in the dugout and watch the ABs these guys are putting together, it just makes it that much easier. With the guys coming out of the bullpen and the arms that they have and the game collectively, that's something that means a lot, to have a guy like Nick leading us off, putting together good ABs and good swings and us just backing him up."
The World side made it close late, piling up six runs over the final five frames and creating a chance to tie it in the ninth against second-ranked A's prospect A.J. Puk. After the southpaw relieved Indians right-hander Triston McKenzie with one out, he walked Estevan Florial and got Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to foul out, then gave up back-to-back singles to Yordan Alvarez and Tomas Nido. Alvarez had taken second on an error by center fielder Corey Ray and scored on Nido's knock to right to make it 7-6 with two outs. Puk ended the threat by getting Mauricio Dubon to bounce out to third, though it took a nifty jump and tag by Ryan McMahon to record the final out.
Nido and Guerrero were the offensive standouts for the World side. The Mets catcher went 2-for-2 with two RBIs after entering as a substitute for Francisco Mejia in the sixth. Guerrero -- the game's youngest player at 18 -- was 2-for-4 and scored twice in what's unlikely to be his last Futures Game. After the initial onslaught, the World bullpen allowed one hit -- Anderson's single off a 99.5-mph fastball from Mariners right-hander Thyago Vieira -- over the final four frames.
Unlike Honeywell, Fisher -- who's played five games in the Majors this season -- said it might take some time before he and his teammates totally understand the importance of Sunday's contest for their careers.
"I think it's something you don't realize until you look down," he said. "This is the first time I've ever played with USA across my chest. I didn't play Team USA growing up. This was the first chance to play with my country on my chest, so being able to put up runs on the board and compete with a good at-bat, it was a lot of fun. ... This is more than just one day. We're trying to make the most out of a nine-inning game and a batting practice. So to be able to basically soak in the moment with these guys and win the game most importantly was awesome."